Accepted paper:

Who does Trepča work for? Ethnicity and property regime in northern Kosovo


Marko Balazevic (Central European University)

Paper short abstract:

Built on the ruins of socialist modernization and contested sovereignty claims, the social reproduction of life in northern Kosovo is articulated through a moral economy of ethnic homogenization through which an unstable appeasement of a dispossessed and disenfranchised class is maintained.

Paper long abstract:

The paper discusses the material reproduction of life of people in Northern Kosovo, focusing in particular on the Trepča Mining Enterprise which was built around the, now ethnically divided, city of Kosovska Mitrovica where the fieldwork was conducted. While the formal economy has been reduced to a marginal role in the economy of Northern Kosovo, Trepča still remains the largest employer with estimated 4000 employees. Only 1000 to 1200 people are effectively employed, while rest rely on a modest stipend and, with enough social capital, a place in the rotating employment scheme. The enterprise inherited a network of social subsidiaries which were integral part of the enterprise during socialism and today remain funded and staffed by Trepča. They are crucial for the social reproduction of life of local people, further blurring the understanding of the property regime, caught up between residual social ownership articulated with the capitalist mode of production. Trepča is still regarded as 'ours', bound to secure for the people, albeit redefined in exclusive ethnic categories. Organic conception of ethnic people supplants the former socialist entitlements, while masking the conspicuous inequalities between a dispossessed and disenfranchised subaltern and a shadowy political-economic elite. Intra-ethnic class antagonism is pacified through modest material entitlements and through ethno-nationalist galvanization gazing at the 'other' across the river. However, behind the veil of militant nationalism, people are painfully aware that the ambiguity over sovereignty in Northern Kosovo creates lucrative opportunities for an oligarchic elite, whose business activities are not hindered by ethnic considerations.

panel P65
Linking the moral and the political economy in the European periphery